Malik Monk turned out to be perhaps the Los Angeles Lakers’ most reliable player not named LeBron James during 2021-22, enjoying a breakout season in his fifth year in the NBA.
Monk signed a one-year minimum deal with the Lakers after a frustrating free agency. The Charlotte Hornets decided not to give the former lottery pick a qualifying offer, allowing the guard to leave as an unrestricted free agent. L.A. was the only team to show serious interest in signing Monk, the Kentucky alum would say later during the season.
The Lakers didn’t hesitate to pounce on the opportunity to bring in their long-term target, whose career had long been followed by LeBron James himself. And Monk repaid the trust, averaging 13.8 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.9 assists, and 0.8 steals — all career highs — in 76 appearances, shooting 47.3% from the field and 39.1% from deep.
He also made 37 starts, capitalizing on his chemistry with James as well as his ability to create shots for himself as one of the few players on the roster.
Monk summarized his 2021-22 performance in the Lakers’ last game of the season, racking up career-high 41 points in the victory over the Denver Nuggets. The guard flew high above the rim, throwing down dunks as well as sinking triples to lead L.A.’s fourth-quarter comeback. Monk shot 14-or-25 (56%) and went 7-of-14 (50%) for 3 to cap off the best night of his professional career.
As one of the steals of the 2021 offseason, Monk will almost certainly enjoy plenty of interest in free agency this summer. Some say extending his stay in L.A. should be one of the Lakers front office’s priorities ahead of 2022-23. But the Purple and Gold might not be able to match other teams’ offers if the estimates of his next salary potentially reaching $10 million per year prove to be accurate.
However, Monk said that money would not be the driving factor in deciding his future, giving the Lakers a little hope they will be able to bring the talented scorer back.
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